The name of Dakar’s first FabLab, Defko Ak Niep, stands for the general philosophy of all FabLabs – translated from Wolof, it means “Do It With Others.”
Started as an initiative of the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, USA, FabLabs are a global network of workshops that offer low-cost, open source digital fabrication technologies. They were originally designed as platforms where community entrepreneurs could quickly prototype ideas, so Defko Ak Niep’s mission – to provide a platform for local artists and artisans to share knowledge with other professionals – is true to the original vision of the movement. In Africa, FabLabs are being seen as a way to spread technology and leapfrog the innovation process, allowing grassroots talents to solve the problems of their communities, and by extension, their countries. In 2007, South Africa set aside 16 million rand to establish ten FabLabs in the country. In 2014, the P2P Foundation also lists FabLabs in Lomé, Togo; Nairobi, Kenya; Casablanca, Morocco; and Tunis, Tunisia. FabLabs are an important part of the digital innovation network across the country, which includes makerspaces, technology hubs, and business incubators.